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Dyslexic employee wins disability discrimination case

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A woman with dyslexia has won a disability discrimination case against her employer Starbucks after she was accused of falsifying documents.

A tribunal found Meseret Kumulchew had been discriminated against after making mistakes due to her difficulties with reading, writing and telling the time.

Campaigners say the ruling highlights the duty of all employers to make allowances for staff with the condition.

The tribunal found that Starbucks had victimised Ms Kumulchew after she inaccurately recorded the water and fridge temperatures as part of her duties as a supervisor at the firm’s branch in Clapham, south-west London.

The tribunal heard that as a result of this she was given lesser duties and told to retrain, which left her feeling suicidal.

A separate hearing to determine how much compensation Starbucks should pay will be held in the next few weeks.

Starbucks, with whom Ms Kumulchew still works, said it was in discussions about providing more workplace support.

Speaking exclusively to the BBC, Ms Kumulchew said: “I am not a fraud. The name fraud itself shouldn’t exist for me.

“It’s quite serious. I nearly ended my life. But I had to think of my kids. I know I’m not a fraud. I just made a mistake.”

The legislation is vague on whether dyslexia, a condition that affects one in 10 people, constitutes a disability. It defines a disability as “a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on … normal day-to-day activities.” It goes on to suggest that under stressful conditions people with dyslexia can be seen to suffer such an impairment.

Kate Saunders, chief executive of the British Dyslexia Association, said Kumulchew’s plight highlighted a common problem. “All organisations must make reasonable adjustments for those with disabilities, including dyslexia, under the Equality Act 2010. They should have appropriate policies in place and make sure these are movements to avoid discrimination, including in the recruitment process, the work environment and colleague reactions,” she said.

“Sadly our national helpline receives numerous calls from adults who are facing serious problems and discrimination in the workplace. Many have found themselves very emotional, stressed, anxious and feeling as if they have nowhere else to turn. These feelings, which with the right support and awareness could easily be avoided, can lead to time off work and loss of productivity. People with dyslexia can bring unique skills to an employer and they should be highly sought after.”